The tooth fairy is an iconic symbol of childhood. We all remember the excitement of leaving a tooth out and waking up the next morning to find a shiny coin. Interestingly unlike Santa and the Easter Bunny, there is no religious basis for the Tooth Fairy. This means there are many different celebrations across the world around the loss of the baby teeth.
Ancient Tooth Related Myths
The Tooth Fairy as we know it is a relatively recent creation, like other myths, evolved over time. There are traditions, legends and myths dating back millennia with regards to loosing your baby teeth.
Early Norse and European traditions suggest that when a child lost a baby tooth, it was buried to spare the child from hardships in the next life. Other traditions stated that wearing a necklace of teeth brought luck in battle. If you were around in Medieval Europe a witch could control you if she was in possession of your teeth!
Tooth Fairy Traditions Around The World
In France, a mouse or rabbit dating to the 17th century mentioned a La Petite Souris. The little mouse replaces the tooth with a coin.
In Spanish cultures the Ratoncito Perez (Perez Mouse) appeared around the late 1800’s. It also exchanges the tooth for a coin.
While many Asian countries such as India and China children thrown their teeth on the roof (if an upper tooth) or under the floor (if a lower tooth). In Japan this is to ensure the new teeth grow straight. In some parts of India you need to bury your tooth near a big tree.
The Middle Eastern cultures also throw teeth as an offering to Allah.
While different cultures have different traditions around the teeth, what is universal is the celebration around the loss of baby teeth.
A small gift
Where a gift is given it has traditionally been small, usually a coin. A recent survey by Visa found that the average child in the United States receives $3.70 per tooth.
Ultimately, the reason the tooth fairy legend continues to grow and evolve across cultures is that it provides a level of comfort to children. As you grow, your body undergoes many changes, but arguably the first and most traumatic for children is the loss of a tooth or two. The tooth fairy and the mouse legends like Parez help bring comfort and excitement to a traumatic experience.
Today dentists use the tooth fairy to encourage dental health. This can be to encourage children to brush their teeth to impress the tooth fairy, always in a positive light! As with all traditions and beliefs, there isn’t a one size fits all. If you child is distressed by the thought of the tooth fairy….don’t do it. We always want to create a positive and happy experience for children around their teeth.